Shaheen, Hassan to Vote Against Sessions for Attorney General

Jan 31, 2017

Jeanne Shaheen
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

  New Hampshire's two Democratic U.S. Senators both say they plan to vote against Jeff Sessions for Attorney General.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen explained her decision on NHPR’s Morning Edition.

"I think his involvement in crafting - that has been reported - in crafting these executive orders raise serious questions about what he would do as attorney general," she said.

Sen. Maggie Hassan says she will also vote no on Sessions.

"After reviewing Senator Sessions’ record, his testimony before the Judiciary Committee, and reports of his influence on the development of President Trump’s backdoor Muslim ban that will make our country less safe, I do not have confidence that Senator Sessions would be an independent Attorney General who would put the rights of all Americans before the whims of this President," Hassan wrote in a statement.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on the Alabama Senator’s confirmation Tuesday. If approved, the full Senate could hold a vote by the end of the week.

Shaheen has been highly critical of President Donald Trump executive order on immigration and refugees, calling it "un-American and grossly inhumane."

Trump’s order bans travel from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days, and restricts new refugees for 120 days.

The full transcript of Shaheen's interview is below:

President Trump last night fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates, for what Trump described as a betrayal of his administration for refusing to defend the executive order on immigration and refugees.

What’s your reaction to his decision?

I think it shows even more why this executive order is a problem. What we heard from the acting attorney general is that she didn’t think it was defensible because she thought it was in violation of the constitution, which we’ve already heard several courts agree with. It’s important for the president, it’s important for every elected official to try to follow the law. This executive order I believe is un-American. It raises constitutional questions. And it was implemented totally incompetently. There were a lot of questions asked, there was a lot of confusion, people at the Department of Homeland Security didn’t know it was coming and weren’t told about how to enforce it. For all kinds of reasons, this is a very bad decision for President Trump and his administration.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio says staff was told by state department officials that they’ve been instructed not to discuss the executive order with members of Congress.

How concerned are you about the lack of information from the administration about this order and whether they’re complying with the stay issued by a federal judge?

That’s another very serious question. One of the things we’ve seen since Donald Trump took office is an effort to keep federal agencies from giving information to the public on their websites. As Senator Rubio pointed out, in terms of staff and how things are being implemented. This is something that I hope Congress is going to take a look at. I think the order is un-American, it’s in violation of the values that we hold so dear in this country. This is a country that was built on immigrants where we have provided safe haven to refugees who are fleeing war. I think we would all agree that if there are ways we can make our vetting process for refugees more effective, we want to do that, but this is not the way to do it. And I’m particularly concerned also because one of the groups of people we are keeping out are those Iraqis who helps our men and women on the ground during the conflict in Iraq. The interpreters who are part of a special immigrant visa program who can come to the United States when their lives are threatened. Last night, I talked to one of those former interpreters for our Iraqi troops on the ground who talked about the concern she had about – she’s fortunately made it into the country – but about other people she knows who are stuck, not knowing what’s going to happen to them and fear for their lives. This is not the kind of picture we want to present of America. It sends a message to our allies, who we want to help us in this conflict against global terrorism, and it also sends a message to the terrorists. They’re going to be able to use this as a recruitment tool to get people to sign up to show that America is against Islam. It was not well thought out, it was not well implemented, and I hope the president is going to take another look and rescind it.  

What are your biggest concerns about this order going forward and what can Democrats really do to stop any of this?  

Because we don’t have the majority of votes in Congress, there are a number of things we can do to try to get the attention of the administration. But the reality is this is the kind of thing that the White House needs to hear from people in the grassroots across this nation about. We’ve seen that with people gathering at airports and marching to express their concerns. Gov. Sununu needs to hear from people in New Hampshire if they’re concerned about it. His family are immigrants just like my husband’s family. He should appreciate the contribution that immigrants make to this country because he’s descendants of one of those families. They should let their legislators in Concord know because this is the kind of thing that’s going to be changed if enough people in the country express their views and let the Trump administration know this is not something we want to see in America.

Will you vote for Jeff Sessions as Attorney General?

I’m not planning to vote for him. I think his involvement in crafting - that has been reported - in crafting these executive orders raise serious questions about what he would do as attorney general.